Scuffle overshadows LA councilman's proposal to ban homeless camps near schools staff KABC logo
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
LA councilman proposes to ban homeless camps near schools
An aide to Councilman Joe Buscaino got into a brief scuffle with a protester, overshadowing the announcement of an effort to ban homeless camps near schools.

HOLLYWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A scuffle broke out Monday at a Los Angeles City Council member's event to propose banning sidewalk homeless encampments around public schools.

Councilman Joe Buscaino is proposing to ban the encampments near schools as part of a new city ordinance which restricts camping in many public areas of the city.

That ordinance takes effect Sept. 3, modifying the city's anti-camping law to prohibit sitting, sleeping, lying or storing personal property in a variety of public spaces, including blocking the right of way.

The ordinance allows the City Council to adopt resolutions to create no-camping zones in specific "sensitive-use locations," which is what Buscaino is now proposing for schools.

Mayor Garcetti signs plan to restrict homeless encampments on sidewalks, other public spaces

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has signed an ordinance to restrict the homeless from camping on sidewalks and many public places throughout the city.

Buscaino announced his resolution Monday morning at Larchmont Charter School, as opponents of the ordinance chanted over the mayoral candidate and stood behind him with signs that read "Housekeys Not Handcuffs" and "Services Not Sweeps."

"Unfortunately, many students across this city will encounter sidewalks completely blocked by homeless encampments, like this one outside of Larchmont in Hollywood," Buscaino said.

"We have many sensitive-use areas in our city, and the most sensitive areas are those where our kids spend their days."

Buscaino's communications director Branimir Kvartuc got into a brief scuffle with protesters after he grabbed the sign of a woman standing near the councilman. That resulted in some pushing and shouting as the councilman tried to intervene, telling his aide to "back off."

Kvartuc later said his intention was to move the sign so it wasn't blocking Buscaino's face during the news conference, but he said the woman jerked back when he grabbed it and the sign broke. The confrontation ended the news conference and the councilman left the podium.

The homeless advocate holding the sign, who identified herself as Stevie, said the incident symbolizes Buscaino's aggressive approach to the city's homelessness issue.

"A representative for Joe Buscaino pulled down my sign and on many cameras pushed me," Stevie said. "And then the press conference ended, because he assaulted me."

"It's more violence from Joe Buscaino. It's what we've come to expect. Joe Buscaino loves to displace people and loves to be violent. Whether it's what we saw today or the violence of criminalizing poverty and homelessness."

Stevie later filed a battery report with the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD is investigating the incident.

Kvartuc told Eyewitness News he did not assault the woman, but only grabbed the sign.

"The only thing that I did was grab the stick," he said. "That's all I did. I did grab the stick. I never touched her."

He acknowledged that he didn't first ask her to move the sign from blocking the councilman before he grabbed it, but thought that request would have provoked a negative reaction.

"No I didn't. I thought about that. My mistake. But she probably would've spit at me anyway. And I knew that."

Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who chairs the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, spoke out against Buscaino's encampment plan via Twitter after the news conference.

"There is a right way and a wrong way to address unsheltered homelessness in our city. (Councilman) Buscaino's approach is the wrong way," he said. "The right way would help people actually transition from the streets to housing, instead of displacing them from one neighborhood to the other."

City News Service contributed to this report.